I hate long intros to countdown lists, and often skip the intro and skim the list, so I’ll keep this short and to the point. There’s no shortage of articles circulating on social media with titles like “The Problem of Worship-tainment,” or “Worship leaders - stop doing this,” or “Hey worship leaders, you are heartless fame-seekers lower than scum!” Ok, maybe that last one is only what I feel when I read some of these articles pulled directly from the flanal-laden bearded minds that sit behind a computer while sipping a pour-over at a local free-wifi established, reclaimed wood- tabled coffee shop. (I’m not bitter, I promise).
I particularly am dis-heartened when I read these articles shared by my own parishioners, knowing full well they never had given any of these myths a thought, until reading the article. So, I want to clear up the top 3 things I frequently read in these articles that I consider to be myths that turn into excuses that vindicate congregants of any responsibility to self-engage. So here we go...
1. Sing songs in a “congregational key”
Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a congregational key. Vocal ranges vary wildly from person to person. In a choir setting, a Bass or Baritone will never hit the upper notes a Tenor can, and vise-versa. It’s the beauty of this instrument the Lord has created. Western music uses 12 tones. That’s it. I can’t sing Kari Jobe songs in her key, but the ladies in the congregation sing them with confidence. So, we have female worship leaders on our team that lead those songs. Songs like “One thing remains” span 2 full octaves that I will lead, but then there are songs like “For the sake of the world” that venture far too low for my skinny jeans to allow, so one of the older and more manly worship leaders will lead those songs.
Diversity in musical keys is beautiful, because congregations are diverse. I think a better thing to aim for is making your worship team and setlist as diverse as the people in the pews. Don’t try to pick congregational keys for your songs, pick a congregational team to lead them.
2. Worship Leaders are in charge of production
I’ll often read “this isn’t a rock show, ditch the lights” or “get your face off the screen,” or “turn down the volume- wait, no - turn up the volume” and the lists goes on. The reality is that most churches have entire teams that head up various aspects. Some assume the lights and fog are at the request of a worship leader that wants to feel like he’s headlining a show, but what if your church (like ours) has an incredibly talented lighting designer that wants to use his gift to create a worship atmosphere for his church body.
The same goes for the sound-engineers, CG operators, and video content creators. Some of these people work freelance during the week to provide production for shows in the least spiritual atmospheres around, and are elated to be able to aide in the praise and worship of the Lord. In the same way a contractor will pave a church parking lot, fix a roof, or remodel a children’s classroom at the church to pour out their gifts to the body, perhaps the sound and lighting team is doing the same thing. While the worship leader works closely with all of these folks, we should’t assume they are in charge of them, but rather stewards of them.
1Peter4: 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
3. Be “Vertical”: Sing less personal songs, sing more songs to God, and sing more Hymns
I read this one a lot, and it always confuses me a bit. When you really examine the statement, you see that it’s a bit self-refuting. Many Hymns are songs of self examination or personal testimony. Amazing Grace, Come thou fount, It is well, Holy Holy Holy, Solid Rock are all either songs of testimony or are about various attributes of theology and God’s nature. There’s a cry, though, to have a worship set that is entirely “vertical.” And what most people mean by desiring this is that they want to pour out their heart directly to God, but there is an important place in our liturgy to remind our hearts who God is in order to truly worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). There are many epic examples in scripture of all of creation singing about God (Isaiah 6:3, Rev 4), and there are many Psalms that speak directly to God (Psalm 63). There’s a place for each of these, and in doing so we achieve something greater than a “Vertical” worship experience. Heaven touches earth, and we have a spirit-filled worship experience.
Ephesians 5:18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, that’s my list. By no means definitive, but something to keep in mind the next time you click on an article about worship leading. Your worship leaders love you, love God, and simply are trying their best to facilitate a time of worship, and preparing of the hearts to meet with God. Now, continue scrolling to the next recipe video or life hack list : )